NEW HARTFORD, CT – A sign stating “TWO DRINK MAXIMUM” is not often seen in a bar. In fact, I’ve never seen one like it before in nearly 45 years of legally imbibing in probably 26 states from coast to coast and in some 14 other countries. But there it was, encased in plastic and hanging on the wall above the video screen that servers at Parrott Delaney Tavern in New Hartford use to input orders in the front bar.
Parrott Delaney is located in an old factory complex at 37 Greenwoods Road. A few steps away and across the parking lot is the revived Ovation guitar plant. I had met a friend for dinner there recently when, after ordering a pint of beer, I noticed the sign that warns the wait staff to be on the lookout for riders.
Above the words “TWO DRINK MAXIMUM” was an illustration of a motorcycle and, above the graphic, two more words – “TWO WHEELS.” Reverse the order and the policy is clear. If you’re riding, you may only order two drinks and then you’re cut off from booze.
My first reaction to the surprising policy was, “Whoa, these guys are terrified of getting sued if a drunken rider crashes.” That would be understandable. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 43 percent of single-vehicle motorcycle fatalities in 2014 involved riders who had a blood alcohol concentration at or above .08 percent. The same study showed that 55 percent of riders killed at night were legally intoxicated.
Those stats are scary. Why would anyone over-indulge – or indulge at all – and get on a motorcycle? Isn’t riding risky enough as-is? Yes, but wisdom can vanish as alcoholic intake increases. And if you have no sense to start with, well…
Upon reflection for a few minutes, my second reaction was that Parrott Delaney’s policy was spot-on. Here’s an establishment that has my back; that appreciates my business enough to want me to return.
After mulling the policy for a week or so, I went back to Parrott Delaney to talk with owner Jim Parrott about how it came to be. “It just seemed the logical thing to do,” he said, recalling that it dates back to 2010 and a prior establishment that he had in Winsted, The Swingin’ Parrott Pub.
Two motorcycle memories helped prompt the policy. One was from his teen years when he used to ride on the back of a friend’s motorcycle to a job in Plainville. “He’d have a beer in his hand. Sometimes on the way to work, definitely on the way home,” he said.
Back then, he didn’t think much about it. “When you’re 16 and invincible, you think that’s pretty cool. Nothing ever happened. It always stayed in the back of my head,“ Parrott said.
The second memory came from adulthood when a friend who was riding a motorcycle was seriously injured when a driver rear-ended him. “He almost died. That’s what really set that (policy) in motion for me,” he said.
“People driving cars don’t know when to stop drinking. That’s bad enough. My thought was (for motorcyclists), I’d rather protect you from getting hurt. We want you to come back as a customer.”
When the policy was initially implemented at The Swingin’ Parrott Pub, he sometimes used the ruse that his insurance company was dictating the policy when drinkers got belligerent, at least until the rule became widely known. That wasn’t the case at all, but it did serve to blunt the criticism of a minority of riders who griped. “We have had the hard core people come in and give us a hard time,” Parrott said.
The overwhelming reaction among riders, though, has been “‘Thank you for thinking of us. We understand.’”
Parrott doesn’t ride but he has friends who do. He said he has “nothing against bikers. I just want to make sure they get home.”
Given the death stats, Parrott Delaney’s strict policy is something I think more bars should seriously consider. That is, if they care more about their customers than their customers’ money.
Over dinner, I had two delectable pints – an Anachronism from the Kent Falls Brewing Company in Kent and a White Brick Saison from Firefly Hollow Brewery in Bristol – and called it quits. I then headed for home in my truck. My personal policy is to avoid alcohol when riding, and seeing that sign tripped the common sense switch in my brain even though I wasn’t riding.
Cheers to the Parrott Delaney Tavern!
(Originally published in the “Republican-American” on July 16, 2016)